Why rivers make you happy
By Jo Monson
If you cut through the rambling and rhetoric, nearly every religion, new age spiritual guru, or latest self help best seller touts the same message: stop dwelling on the past and the future and be in the present. Truly, everyone agrees, fully experiencing every moment is the way to fulfilment and health. The trouble is, while it sounds dead easy, being in the present is incredibly difficult. Ah yes here I am in the present moment and..... I wonder what’s for lunch. You see? Being here right now is difficult. Unless of course, you get in a boat onto a fast flowing river.
And so just recently over New Year 2010 I quite literally found myself steering a croc (small two- person inflatable) down the mighty Orange River. I felt strong and alert and there was not a thought in my mind - just my body’s pressure on the paddle so that the boat would enter the wave-train dead straight. “Paddle hard,” I yelled above the roar of water to my partner in the front of the boat because unless you’re travelling faster than the river, you cannot steer. Pretty soon we were soaking wet and whooping wild whoops as the boat bounced over a series of standing waves. When last did I shout out aloud to the sparkling universe in sheer exhilaration?
The sense of immediacy continued in the evenings as under the flashes of lightening and a dark sky we collected firewood to cook supper, dug holes for our ablutions, lugged water from the river and put up a shelter using our boats and a tarpaulin. Most of the 19 people on the trip were total strangers at the start and it was almost difficult for my manky old mind (which loves to judge people) to accept that every person was open, friendly and willing to contribute. Since it rained every night we slept under our shelter like sardines, on thin mats on the sand and such sweet solid sleeps do not visit me in my own queen-size bed at home.
The books and the gurus, the priests and the yogis are all right: after three days of this kind of living in the moment we were all glowing and in good spirits. Be here right now – or if that’s too hard, get yourself on a river.
Hi all fellow-rafters! Here's just a short briefing on our December rafting trip.
The river: The stretch of river we're going to paddle starts from underneath the old wagon bridge just outside Hopetown and ends at a farm about halfway to Douglas - a distance of approximately 42km. This is a perfect river for beginners and gives us lots of time to relax and unwind.
It's a truly mellow section of the Orange, with mostly lazy meandering flats and lovely sandy dune-beaches. To quote Paul: "The river flows through semi-desert and boasts wonderful night skies, early morning wildlife and great birding".
There are a few current accelerations and wave-trains further down, and eventually the river narrows into a shallow, ebony rock-sculptured gorge called Thunder Alley. Thunder Alley is a stunning stretch of the river, flanked by beautiful naturally carved black rock with occasional sandy beaches.
There are two serious rapids on the river which we will encounter: Hubbly Bubbly and Hell's Gate. We'll decide whether to raft or portage them once we're there. At Hubbly Bubbly, the river forces its way through a gap a few meters wide surrounded by rocks, causing a huge hole in the river. If you aim right, and miss the hole, you'll be fine; if not, a swim is the order of the day. Hell's Gate is the entrance to Thunder Alley. The name speaks for itself - the biggest rapid on this stretch of water. At Hell's Gate, the wide Orange river drops in the gorge of Thunder Alley. It is runnable by competent paddlers, but we'll probably portage around it. Thunder Alley itself is a bit of a misnomer because the rapids in this long gorge are only grade 1 and 2, but there are lots of them and some long wave trains for rollercoaster rides.
Plan of action: From Johannesburg, it's about an 8 hour drive by car to get to the start point. The idea is to start on 30 December and arrive home on 3rd January, giving 2 days for driving and 3 days on river.
We'll meet on Wednesday morning, 30th December at the storeroom at 9am. Sort out equipment, pack cars, leave. Take an easy drive down, to Kimberley where we will sleep over at the Backpackers lodge so we will even have time to look at the Big Hole.
We will then leave Kimberley early (7am) Thursday morning 31st December, get to Hopetown for breakfast at the local hotel with the aim of getting to the river around 10.30am to drop off gear. The drivers will then take the cars around to the take-out point (a farm where we have the farmer's permission and a safe place to leave our vehicles), while the rest sort equipment and pump & load rafts. Once the drivers get back (we are hoping to organise a taxi to bring back the drivers - if not, they will return in one car), we will head off down the river for an hour or so until we find the perfect spot to see in the new year (remember the bubbly!). We will then have a fairly late start on the 1st - around 10am and raft to around 4pm. This should take us to just above Hells Gate.
This will leave us an easy section to do on the 2nd January. Hopefully we should be able to pack up the cars and if necessary, do the drive around to collect any cars left in Hopetown. We will sleep over on the 2nd. Finalise packing on Sunday morning (3rd January) and drive back to Joburg.
Cost of the trip: Estimated cost will be between R1500.00 and R1800.00 each depending on transport costs, etc, and will cover the sleepover in Kimberley, breakfast in Hopetown and all other food to breakfast on Sunday 3rd. All rafting and safety gear on the river will be provided. Cutlery & crockery will be provided, as will cooldrinks on the river.
What you need to bring: your own drinks for the evenings, snacks for around the fire in the evenings, your bedding and clothing. Cash for food on the road - breakfast/lunch/supper on the 30th (in Kimberley) and lunch on the way home on the 3rd January,.
Booking: If you've booked and your name isn't on the list at the bottom of the page, contact Sharron asap.
Sharron needs a R500.00 deposit by Monday 7th December to secure your spot and the balance will need to be paid in by the 20th December. Should you wish to pay in the full R1800.00 that's fine - Sharron will refund any "kitty" money after the trip. You will need to contact her directly to get the banking details.
Sharron's cell number is 082-553-5258